CTF Hero, Ted La May passed away at home on November 26, 2021.
Condolences go out to his wife of 61 years, Pat La May, as well as their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Ted played a central role in the development of The Colorado Trail, though the effort got off to a very rocky start.
In the early 1980’s in Durango, Ted was the District Ranger for the Animas District of the U.S. Forest Service. He received a proposal involving The Colorado Trail, a request that it be routed to end near Durango, passing through many miles of what was then the Animas District landscape, Ted’s landscape. Lead volunteer and organizer, Gudy Gaskill, proposed that volunteer trail crews would do most of the trail building and, after established, most of the trail maintenance. As Ted was no stranger to trail building and all that it entailed, he was skeptical that volunteers would succeed and he resisted the entire proposal.
Not one to accept the answer, “No,” Gudy encouraged Ted to allow one volunteer trail building week and invited him to join them to learn what they could accomplish. Ted agreed. The weeklong effort involved 5 trail-work days and, at the end, volunteers had built an amazing stretch of what Ted characterized as good trail. The CT Volunteers had proven themselves to Ted La May, District Ranger. Ted changed his disposition on the CT proposal and began helping the CT Foundation. Route refinements were made and an alignment was chosen through the Elk Creek Canyon, over Molas Pass, along Indian Trail Ridge, overtop Kennebec Pass, and into Junction Creek near Durango…the route that exists today.
Gudy assembled volunteer crews and Ted La May supported the efforts with Forest Service staff and equipment. (He had become one of the CT Foundation’s most important supporters.) In 1986 and ’87, volunteers built new trail to connect some old routes that were already in place. During the first summer, the crews were so efficient that Ted worked through the weekends staking out more trail to stay ahead of them.
In no small part thanks to Ted La May, the Trail was connected end to end between Denver and Durango in September, 1987.
Ted retired from the USFS in 1994. Having become deeply involved in The Colorado Trail Foundation, Ted served on the Board of Directors from 1995 to 2001. He also became a Trail Crew Leader and, with his wife Pat managing the crew kitchen, they led something like a dozen trail crews. For the leader and kitchen manager, each of these crews was a monumental undertaking, but they loved working with fellow volunteers and accomplishing Colorado Trail improvements together.
Ted enlisted good friend Ernie Norris to co-lead trail crews and subsequently Ernie became a full-fledged Trail Crew Leader.
Ted and Ernie also worked together each summer on Ted’s CT adoption, the infamous sliderock section some 20 miles above Durango. Each year they would find that the rocky trail bench was largely covered by a new layer of rocks that had slid from above. And their section through the forest was blocked by huge fallen trees. Together they would handle all this maintenance and get the Trail ready for the many enthusiasts, hike, bike, and horse.
After 6 years on the board of directors, Ted encouraged the group to consider one of his long-time protégés, Bill Manning, for a board seat. Bill would serve on the board for 5 years prior to becoming the organization’s first-ever Executive Director in 2006.
The CTF honors our hero, Ted La May. He was instrumental in the development of The Colorado Trail and greatly benefited the Foundation throughout his life. His obituary can be found at https://obituaries.durangoherald.com/us/obituaries/durangoherald/name/theodore-may-obituary?id=31727975. If you’d like to send Pat a card, mail to 2424 Columbine Dr., Durango, CO 81301. The family has indicated that, in lieu of flowers, donations could be made to The Colorado Trail Foundation, https://coloradotrail.org/donate-colorado-trail-foundation/.